You’ve all heard the story by now. No #16 seed has ever defeated a #1 seed, and, with the win, Kansas avoided the tragic fate of bucking that trend. Seems easy enough, right? Well, Kansas was challenged in a major way by the Hilltoppers on Friday night, and it took them the entire 40 minutes to put away Western Kentucky.
The Jayhawks trailed by a 31-30 margin at the half, and while they made a run to grab and extend the lead in the mid-2nd half, some inexplicable decision-making kept Western Kentucky alive in the game until the final minute. Kansas clamped down in a major way defensively, holding WKU to under 20% (not a misprint) shooting from the field in the second half, and a woeful 3-of-20 from three-point land on the night.
It seemed for all of the world as if Western Kentucky would convert on just one of the several opportunities that Kansas provided with their carelessness, but the shots simply wouldn’t fall in the second half, and they fell just short. It is pretty inexplicable that the smaller, slighter Hilltoppers would win the rebounding battle (??-??) and the turnover margin (??-??), but that is exactly what happened, and if they had simply made a reasonable percentage of their shots, history likely would have been made.
Kansas was led by their All-American on this night, and senior Center Jeff Withey was a monster on both ends of the court, finishing with 17 points (on only 9 shots), 6 rebounds, and 7 impressive blocks. The Jayhawks as a whole did not play well (obviously), but if they can cut down on the turnovers (with improved decision-making), they should be significantly better in round two.
For Western Kentucky, this will be a night that each player will never forget, as they had a legitimate chance to beat a #1-seed and one of the most highly-regarded programs in NCAA history. The Hilltoppers played incredibly well on both ends with only one exception (their shooting), and that’s about as impressive of an effort as there has ever been from a #16-seed.
Kansas moves on to face #8-seed North Carolina in round two (or round three as the NCAA would like you to believe), and that battle between two elite programs will garner big-time attention nationally. The Jayhawks will need to play significantly better to have a chance to defeat a talented UNC team, but there is plenty for them to take away from this squeak-out victory.
Be sure to stay tuned to FanSided.com and BustingBrackets.com throughout the entire tournament as we keep you up to date with the latest results. Will there be a Cinderella story in 2013? We will have to tune in and see.